French cuisine is beloved around the world, and a typical French breakfast is no exception. Here, Culture Trip checks in with the owner of Café Bretelles in Strasbourg, to discover the city’s best hangouts – for everything from a quick coffee and croissant to a long, leisurely brunch.
When asked about his own ideal breakfast, Ny Aina Bernardson, owner of the Café Bretelles, doesn’t hesitate: “The baguette, toast, jam and coffee!”
Keeping it simple, with a few quality ingredients, is one way to do it, but if your tastes are more sophisticated, then you’re in luck. According to Bernardson, there is no shortage of diverse breakfast and brunch options in Strasbourg, and many chefs are getting experimental with their offerings.
“The idea is more and more to combine the principles of tradition and modernity,” he says. The best way to get an idea of why the French breakfast is so popular is, of course, to try it for yourself – here’s where Bernardson recommends you go for a quality breakfast or Sunday brunch in Strasbourg.
Cafe, Restaurant, French, $$$
A well-known landmark, this small cafe-restaurant is located opposite the barges on the Quai des Bateliers. As Bernardson says, it’s popular in Strasbourg “for its values and proximity, but above all because you really feel good there”. The brand pays homage to Alsatian culture, using the very best ingredients from local producers to keep their quality high and their dishes authentic. They specialise in a full brunch menu, offered every day – don’t miss the distinctive pretzel cake.
A real reference point in Strasbourg, Madame Julia is a family restaurant that recreates a New York-style cafe atmosphere. From 7am to 6pm, the open kitchen in the middle of the room works nonstop, serving breakfast, brunch and lunch. Its colourful, fruit-filled breakfast bowls and towering stacks of pancakes give it the reputation, Bernardson says, of “the most Instagrammable brunch in Strasbourg”.
Head towards the train station to discover this unusual place. A mix between hotel, show venue, art gallery and restaurant, the Graffalgar stands out not only for the originality of its multi-use space, but also for its breakfast offerings. Indulge yourself in a daily all-you-can-eat sweet buffet for a very fair €12 (£11). They’re best known for their pastries, and Bernardson believes that the highlight, of course, is “the famous croissant, which remains a timeless classic for French people”. If you’re coming here for brunch, come hungry.
Located at the foot of the cathedral, Bistrot et Chocolat is “the best alternative for a vegan and gluten-free brunch,” says Bernardson. The specialty here is – you’ve guessed it – chocolate. It stars throughout the menu in the form of drinks, pastries and spreads. If your sweet tooth doesn’t quite extend to eating hazelnut brownies and chocolate cream for breakfast, they also offer a range of muesli and fresh fruit salad. Hearty brunches are served every day of the week, and on weekends from 10am to 4pm.
Sofitel is a slightly more upscale address, ideal for those gourmands looking for a taste of the region. Here, you’ll find a selection of breads and pastries sourced from the best bakeries in Strasbourg. For a change from the croissant, Bernardson advises you to try Alsatian specialities such as streusel (a brioche topped with a sweet crumble) or Kougelhopf (a Bundt cake, often baked with raisins). Every first Sunday of the month, they host a themed brunch, spotlighting aspects of French gastronomy such as Alsatian charcuterie, local ingredients and carefully selected cheeses.
Ideal for a gentle awakening, Le Café Potager is a small corner of greenery in the heart of the city; the abundance of plants and pretty floral decor gives it a modern, calming atmosphere. Rather than fast food, this cafe brands itself as “fast-good”, offering appetising breakfasts made from local products that you can eat in or takeaway, including the traditional bread and jam to heartier options such as cheese and eggs. Add a home-made iced tea, lemonade or fresh juice to wash it down with. If you’re still peckish afterwards, the carrot cake comes highly recommended.
Situated in the middle of the Grand Rue, you could easily pass by this unassuming restaurant. But it’s well worth seeking out – once past the door, you enter a homely, quaint, Alice in Wonderland-style world which Bernardson describes as “an atypical setting”. It features a simple menu for a traditional breakfast: a fresh baguette with great home-made jams such as mango, pineapple and red fruits, accompanied by a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, or a coffee or hot chocolate. It’s impossible to resist the dozens of oversized cakes and pastries that sit in glass counters, so save some space for these.
According to Bernardson, Pour de Bon is “a super-original concept, to vary a little bit from the pastries”. Here, rather than the croissants, it’s the cheeses that are in the spotlight, which are made onsite by the manager. On Sundays from 10am to 3pm, you will find cheeseboards, salads or seasonal sandwiches, French toast, and home-made yoghurt. They specialise in fresh, Alsatian products, so if you’re looking to eat local during your trip, head here. It’s also possible to book your brunch in advance and take it with you for a picturesque picnic.
Building on its success, Café Bretelles now has two locations in Strasbourg, at the Krutenau and in Petite France. The traditional breakfast relies heavily on quality, local products and an ethical approach where possible. “Even the apple juice we serve comes from Alsatian apples,” Bernardson explains, adding that the apples are excess or misshapen produce that can’t be sold commercially. “This means that in addition to being good,” he says, “it is also anti-waste.” Nothing on the menu exceeds €10 (£9), making this the ideal address to eat and drink well on a budget.